Posts Tagged ‘Firesign Theatre’

One less bozo on the bus

June 21, 2015
A fragment of the Firesign collection here at Ed Siegelman's Ground Zero Equal Opportunity Apartments, purchased from the fine folks at Giant Toad Supermarkets.

A fragment of the Firesign collection here at Ed Siegelman’s Ground Zero Equal Opportunity Apartments, purchased from the fine folks at Giant Toad Supermarkets.

Nick Danger is no longer at The Old Same Place. Phil Austin, who voiced that character and so many others for The Firesign Theatre, went west on Thursday. He was 74.

I stumbled across Firesign in high school, years before I ever heard of Monty Python, and snapped up almost every bit of work that they did, either as a group — a collective self-dubbed “Four or Five Crazee Guys” for the invisible fifth person that arose from their collaboration — or as fragments thereof.

The collection includes the widely known (“Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him,” “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus”) and the less so (“Everything You Know Is Wrong,” “In the Next World You’re On Your Own,” and “The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”). I got ’em all, on vinyl, CD and occasionally both.

Some friends and I had the good fortune to catch their act in Denver once, Back In the Day™. You can keep your Beatles, Stones, and Dead, thanks. I got my Firesign, and that’s better than a pile of groatcakes soaked in 30-weight with an entrenching tool within easy reach.

Fellow Firesign Peter Bergman beat Austin out the door in 2012. Or maybe he’s on the other side of the album! I’d better check. …

• Late update: Any Firesign fans out there packing iPhones? Tell Siri, “This is Worker speaking,” or ask her, “Why does the porridge-bird lay its eggs in the air?” I’d forgotten that Austin did some voiceover work for Apple commercials, and it seems that “Bozos” may have struck a chord with the Black Turtleneck Mob.

It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity

June 23, 2012

Jeebus. Four days of record-breaking heat in Bibleburg and more on the way. Lord, I know it was supposed to be the fire next time — I just wasn’t expecting it so soon.

Speakings of fires, have I mentioned that we’ve got ’em out the wazoo? Up near Lake George, around Fort Collins, at Pagosa Springs and around Mesa Verde, for starters.

The Springer fire near Lake George is thought to have been human-caused, if you can describe as “human” one or more of the lesser primates banging away at a propane tank with the old smokepole. Yes, that’s the rumor behind the news, as The Firesign Theatre would put it. And the crazier the rumor, the greater the likelihood that it’s true. We also have a serial arsonist lighting up the roadside grasses in Teller County. Good times.

The menagerie and I are left alone to endure this smoky pestilence, Herself having pissed off to Mouse Country for some class of library confab at which they all dress severely, put their hair up in buns and practice the hissing of “Shh!” at each other. Just as well, I suppose, as the metaphorical flames of multiple deadlines are licking around my feet and I can’t seem to stomp them out fast enough, which makes me unpleasant company.

And at least we still have a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of, unlike a whole bunch of folks up in Larimer County, whose homes are now portable, fitting neatly into their cars’ ashtrays. Makes a shit monsoon feel like a gentle summer rain.

R.I.P., Peter Bergman

March 9, 2012
Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers

"Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" — in the original vinyl.

Sad news: Peter Bergman of The Firesign Theatre died today of leukemia.

The Firesigns weren’t for everyone, but they sure worked for me. I was a devout acolyte of their intelligent, absurd comedy years before I ever heard of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him,” “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All,” “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” “I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus,” “The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra,” “Everything You Know Is Wrong” — I have all of them and more, in vinyl and/or CD.

Some of my oldest friends originally coalesced around an impromptu recital of “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye” in a Greeley living room one night in the early 1970s. A bunch of us saw the Firesigns perform in Denver some years later, and as quickly as they delivered a line the audience fired it back at them. I don’t know whether that would be gratifying or exasperating.

The Firesigns — Bergman, Philip Proctor, Philip Austin and David Ossman — had their roots in Bergman’s Radio Free Oz, a nightly radio show on Pacifica’s KPFK. It seems safe to say that without Bergman, there would have been no Firesign Theatre — no Bozos, no Nick Danger, no Porgie Tirebiter, and a damn’ sight less laughter in the world, a commodity that is always in short supply.

• Late update: an extended obituary from The Los Angeles Times and another from The New York Times.